Sunday, May 17, 2020

Moonlight: Immortal Heritage 3 First Chapter.

MOONLIGHT Book 3 of my main Saga Immortal Heritage is days away from premiering! Enjoy the first chapter.



Night was falling.
I looked out the bus window, not really seeing anything; my mind was still reeling with memories of what happened that afternoon. Despite my damp hoodie and jeans, I wasn’t cold. Nick had his arm around my shoulders, pressing me against his warm body. I ventured a look to his face, his skin was pale, hazel eyes lost. He was more numb than me; the rage had turned into shock.
How else could he feel?
To know his adoptive brother and cousin—David—had murdered the first girl he’d ever loved while almost killing me was bad enough.
Things got worse when we discovered that his aunt—and adoptive mother—Sarah, had known the truth and hid it from him. And everything had gone to hell when his entire family had turned against me. Just because I am different.
Well, maybe different is a bit of an understatement.
A supernatural hybrid creature who feeds on the life-force and energy of others to survive would be more accurate. A succubus, half-vampire. That vampire half made Nick’s family want to tear me apart, quite literally since they were lycanthropes. Turns out movies weren’t that off. Some vampires and lycanthropes hate each other and make their life goal to chase and murder one another. One more testament to my rotten luck was that I had to run into 3 of them.
It didn’t have to be that way, Nick was also a lycanthrope, and he had learned to accept me despite the prejudices. He’d seen me as a friend and not a monster. Together we had learned that most of what he believed about my kind were lies. Eventually, friendship and understanding had turned into something stronger, something dangerous for both of us and those I cared for—my human adoptive family, Jenna, Cassie, and Brian. Innocent to the reality of my true nature. What would Jenna think when days went by and I didn’t return home?
The bus shook as it stopped; Nick straightened, blinking back into focus. His eyes looking for mine as the numbness faded, his emotions a turmoil much like mine. The other passengers were getting out of the bus.
I squeezed his warm hand. “We should get going.”
He swallowed hard and nodded, sliding his arm off my shoulders to take my hand and guide me to walk behind him. Always protecting me, even though he was fully aware of my powers.
“Wait,” I said. The smell of smog and the noise of the vehicles welcomed us as we stepped outside. “We should walk to the train station.”
He turned to me, his athletic 6-foot-3 frame towering over me. “I don’t have enough cash with me to pay for train tickets.”
I felt his anger and shame when admitting that. We had run away with nothing more than our mud-stained clothes and barely enough money to pay for the bus ride.
“I know,” I assured him. “I have a bag with some cash and clothes stashed in the train station.”
He nodded, and we made our way through the busy streets. His nervous vigilance of our surroundings echoed mine through our tangled fingers. I was an Empath, able to sense the moods and intentions of anyone around me; touch amplified that power. One of my several powers.
“Where were you planning to go?” I asked, hating the silence.
His mouth twitched. “I hadn’t planned that far ahead, to be honest. I just feel… restless.” He looked at me, attempting a faint smile. “But I’m sure you already knew that.”
My smile faltered too.
We walked hastily to the train station. The buzz of the many emotions surrounding me made me uneasy. I hated crowded places with a passion. The inside of the station was worse than the streets, and my stomach knotted. Nick let go of my hand, squeezing my shoulder reassuringly, allowing me to lead the way.
He stood beside me vigilantly while I fidgeted with the combination to open the locker. I felt sweet relief when I saw my bag there, as I had left it. Many months before I had considered running away, leaving my adoptive family behind—fearing to hurt them. But something had stopped me, and I had stayed in the small town of Lakeport with them.
“Ready,” I said once I had retrieved my belongings.
Nick nodded, leading us outside with his hand in mine. His uncertainty and despair echoed mine, rising and falling like waves in the ocean.
“I think it might be a good idea to rest,” he said. We stood on the sidewalk moving aside from the crowded entrance. “We need to clear our heads.”
“Just what I was thinking,” I admitted. “We can check into a hotel nearby and get a shower and some sleep.”
“How are you feeling? I should have asked before,” Nick whispered, taking my chin in his hand. He examined my right cheekbone, the one that had David had cracked a few hours before.
An involuntary shiver ran through me as I remembered how David had kicked me until several of my ribs broke. “Completely healed.”
Nick cocked a brow. “Dahlia.”
I sighed, he knew me too well for my sake. “A minor discomfort, nothing I can’t handle.”
He traced his thumb on my chin, and the world disappeared from sight. He had chosen me over his family, risked his life to save me. I had only one word for the feeling that bubbled between us, overpowering the raging fears and concern.
He leaned forward and pressed his warm lips on my forehead. “Let’s go.”
His warm breath tickled over my cool skin as I looked up at him. “Okay.”

The receptionist had given us a once over until I paid in cash. The hotel wasn’t exactly fancy, but it was good, and we looked like hell. The cream-colored room was simple, with two single beds, a bathroom, and a window instead of a balcony.
I dropped the bag on the bed near the door.
“Take the one further from the door,” Nick said. “Just in case.”
Just in case a bunch of crazy lycans tried to kill us.
“Okay,” I moved to the other bed and opened the bag, offering him one of my oversize hoodies.
He took it, looking at his green, mud-stained shirt. “Thanks.”
“You go first,” I suggested pointing to the bathroom. He agreed wordlessly and closed the bathroom door behind him.
I let myself fall back on the bed, closing my eyes as I expanded my senses, looking for impending danger. I regretted it when my empathy amplified more than usual, giving me more information than necessary. A depressed female presence, a couple having sex, guilty sex at that which led me to believe they were having an affair.
Satisfied with knowing there was no danger, and disturbed by the sharpening of my power, I willed myself to focus back on us.
My heart raced as I felt Nick’s anger and sorrow reach new levels.


The warm water did little to ease my tense muscles.
Every time I closed my eyes, flashes of memories I’d try to bury for months clouded my thoughts. Katie, the human girl I had loved broken and dead in my arms, David’s disdainful smile when I was mourning her at the funeral. His petty commentaries about how I needed to get over it. And worse than that, Sarah echoing the same, trying to force me to forget Katie, knowing her own son had killed her.
I restrained myself from hitting the tile wall, knowing I would end up making a hole in it. How could Sarah do that? A woman I had considered a mother. How could both she and Cal let David get away with murdering a 16-year-old girl? Why was David so hellbent on killing those I love?
If I hadn’t pulled him off Dahlia early that afternoon… Dahlia was strong, and a decent fighter, but not a match for a lycanthrope with years of training and brutal strength. Not even I was a match for David. We took him down together; I doubted we could’ve done so separately.
“We will have plenty of time to kill it,” Sarah had snarled, referring to Dahlia.
Never. I would rather die right than before allowing them to hurt her.
I did my best to wash the green shirt in the sink. Putting on my black jeans and Dahlia’s black hoodie before stepping out.
She was sitting on the bed waiting for me, her sapphire eyes wide with worry. With her usual fluid moves, she got up and walked to stand in front of me. I pulled her close, resting my chin on the top of her head. She sighed against my chest. The pain eased when I held her in my arms, my heartbeat synchronizing with hers. The only one I could trust, my only friend.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Her melodic voice breaking.
I took her chin, prodding her to her look at me. “This is not your fault, it’s theirs and no one else’s.”
Her elegant features contorted in sadness.
She nodded and moved to get some clothes out of her black bag before entering the bathroom. I ran my fingers through my hair, sitting on the bed by the door. What were we going to do? Where would we be safe? We couldn’t go too far, we needed to make sure Dahlia’s very human adoptive family remained safe.
My eyes landed on Dahlia’s bag, wondering what she had stored there.
“Go ahead, have a look,” came her voice from the shower.
I felt a smile tug on my lips. Her empathy made it difficult to hide anything. It was almost as good as if she could read my mind.
There were some clothes, a taser, and a pair of black tennis shoes in the biggest pocket. I opened the next zipper and my jaw dropped when I saw the amount of cash stored there.
“Did you rob a bank?” I half-joked.
“Not exactly,” she replied, the water was still running. “It’s only a minor part of what mom left for me.”
The grief was clear as day in her voice. Her mother had died a few years back in a car crash; Dahlia would have died too if it weren’t for her vampire side.
Her immortal heritage.
Eager to distract myself, I counted the money; she’d tied with elastic bands in thick rolls. Different denominations. A little over $50.000.
“What did your mother do for a living?” I mused, she heard me nevertheless. The shower was turned off now.
“She was an artist, drawing, painting, she also wrote her own music.”
I lifted my head as the door opened. Dahlia was drying her short dark hair with a towel, her eyes glazed and sad.
“She also gave music lessons, persuading even the less invested kids to learn to play the piano,” her full lips lifted in a sad smile. “She made time to volunteer in a dog shelter.”
She shook her head, closing the bathroom door to sit beside me. “Being honest, I don’t know where the money came from, family inheritance was the answer I got the few times I asked.”
I closed the bag, tossing it by the nightstand; wrapping my arm around her waist.
She leaned against my shoulder with a lengthy sigh. “I can’t help but wonder if Jenna and the kids are safe. What if your family doesn’t buy your threat?”
To keep Dahlia and her adoptive family safe, I’d threatened Cal, Sarah, and David with contacting the Jaeger—human lunatics who hunt down supernatural beings in the name of protecting humans from “demons”. A load of shit they made up centuries ago to feel better about being murderers.
I moved a lock of her hair behind her ear, the blonde roots were showing. “Cal and Sarah know I can find the hunters, there’s a sizeable group of them camouflaged as a religious congregation. One call to the hunters pretending I’m a scared human, and they’re screwed.”
“Have you ever ran into one of them?” Dahlia asked, searching for my eyes.
I swallowed, a shower of memories making way in my already troubled mind. “Yes. A group of those bastards tried to kill my real parents once. Others succeeded.”
Dahlia gasped, her eyes widening.
“We were living in this tiny village in the middle of the forest, a few human families who worked on woodcutting like father lived nearby.” Rage bubbled up, remembering. “They didn’t care if the humans fell to, they burned much of the forest and the homes trying to get us. Mom and dad stopped them and save the families. But it was awful.”
I felt Dahlia’s anger echo mine. “I’m so sorry. How old were you?”
I sighed. “3, it was one year before they died.”
Dahlia blinked, her brow furrowing. “I can remember with full clarity things that happened when I was 1-year-old, a supernatural trait I assume?”
I nodded, her eyes questioning, I knew what she didn’t want to ask aloud. “One year later the hunters killed them. In front of me. Sarah, Cal and the others saved me, but didn’t get there in time to save them.”
She caressed my cheek. There was no need for words. She tried and failed to stifle a yawn; I followed.
“Off to bed, you need to rest.”
“So do you,” she replied.
I shook my head. “I should stand guard.”
She pursed her lips. “I don’t think it’s necessary. If something is off, I’ll feel it even in my sleep.”
I was going to argue, but she cut me off. “You need to sleep too.”
She was right; I was more tired than usual and slightly sore. A sign that soon I would go through the change, becoming a complete lycanthrope. A thought I didn’t want to dwell on.
“Okay,” I relented.
We got up, she slid inside the covers. I tucked her in.
She blushed, biting her lip. “Nick? I don’t want to sleep alone.”
“Me neither,” I confessed. I turned the lights off, Dahlia’s eyes slightly shining in the darkness.
I got under the covers, her head resting on my shoulder, my arm around her waist.
“Goodnight,” I murmured, kissing the top of her head.
“Goodnight,” she whispered, placing her arm across my stomach.
©Selene Kallan, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Adelanto de THE SHADOW WAND por Laurie Forest.

Lee un adelanto exclusivo de THE SHADOW WAND. 

La Profecía Gardneriana

(Adivinada por los Sacerdotes Profetas usando cleromancia de Olneya)
Un Gran Alado pronto se levantará y
enviará su tenebrosa sombra sobre la tierra.
Y cuando la Noche asesine el Día
y el Día asesine la Noche,
también una gran Bruja Negra
se levantará a enfrentarlo,
sus vastos poderes más allá de la imaginación. 
Y cuando sus poderes colisionen 
sobre el campo de batalla,
los cielos se abrirán,
las montañas temblarán y 
las aguas se volverán carmesí.
Y sus destinos determinarán
el futuro de Erthia.  

La Profecía Noi

(Presagiada por los Sirvientes Bendecidos de Vo usando taseografía de Ginkgo Negro)
Un niño dragón será creado 
por la Gran Diosa Vo,
y será llenado con 
el fuego, el poder y la justicia
de la diosa dragón.
Pero nacida en la Sombra
otra gran Bruja Negra también se levantará.
Para tejer horror y corrupción
a través de Erthia.
Ambos se encontrarán en el campo de batalla
mientras todo el color se desvanece en el mundo.
Y es consumido por la sombra.

La Profecía Amaz

(Profetizada por los Videntes de la Diosa usando Astragalomancia del Olmo Rojo Sagrado)
Hijas de la diosa, escuchen!
Una gran fuerza se levanta
desde el Mundo Maldito de los Hombres.
Y en medio de esta obscuridad, un dragón 
y una bruja negra se levantarán y combatirán,
trayendo destrucción sobre el mundo.
Tomen armas, Hijas Bendecidas!
La hora de salvar Erthia ha llegado!


Hace quince años…

Edwin Gardner se sienta en una silla acolchonada de seda en un borrón de duelo.
Observa a su hermana enloquecida, Vyvian, mientras camina a través de su salón decorado, deseando poder lavarse las manos del legado maldito de magia de su familia.
Y deseando que las noticias que Vyvian acaba de impartir no fueran tan aterrorizantes.
Increíblemente, en medio de este día que alterará el mundo, Vyvian está vestida tan impecablemente como siempre. Su cabello negro largo y brillante está artísticamente trenzado, ni un mechón fuera de lugar. Su túnica y falda favorecedoras -azul medianoche con un lujoso bordado de ramas de pino-, están perfectamente planchadas. Y hay lujo en todas partes, en este maldito cuarto opulento: árboles oscuros y pulidos de Olneya puestos en las paredes, sus ramas obsidianas entrelazándose hacia el techo. A sus pies hay una alfombra con patrones de hojas de roble. Ventanas panorámicas bordeadas con ramas de vidrio tintado que dan una vista del jardín de rosas rojo sangre de Vyvian. 
Lo más fino de todo, Edwin considera con amarga angustia. Toda esta riqueza asegurada por el cruel reinado de fuego de su madre. Edwin enviá una plegaria para que las futuras generaciones no hereden esta magia terrible y corrupta. 
Vyvian continúa caminando, ni siquiera se molesta en mirar a los niños acurrucados en la esquina mientras el dolor amenaza con despedazar a Edwin.
Su hermano Vale y su compañera Tessla están muertos.
Edwin tiene la garganta constreñida, su respiración es irregular y laboriosa por la pérdida de dos de las personas que amaba más en el mundo. Quiere arrancar su cabello y llorar miserablemente hacia los cielos.Quiere reprender a su hermana, al completo monstruo que es Gardneria. Pero no puede caerse a pedazos. Tiene tres niños que necesitan de su protección. Los hijos de Vale y Tessla.
Rafe, Trystan y Elloren.
—No puedes pelear contra los Gardnerianos —le había advertido a Tessla hace solo unos meses atrás, consumido por la preocupación mientras la enfrentaba en su hogar localizado en Valgard—. No tienes idea de la crueldad de la que es capaz mi madre. Su poder se ha vuelto oscuro, Tess, la está consumiendo.
—Tengo que pelear —Tessla contrarió apasionadamente, su voz llena de desafío— están acorralando a todos los Fae, Edwin! A los niños también. Tenemos que ayudarlos!
No puedes.
Tenemos que ayudarlos. ¿Qué no lo ves? ¡Los Gardnerianos están haciendo lo mismo que los Celtas y los Uriscal nos hicieron a nosotros! Los niños están siendo capturados. Familias enteras. ¿Sabes cómo es eso? ¿Ver a tu familia, tu gente, acorralada para ser asesinada? ¿Oír a los niños gritar? —las mejillas de Tessla estaban rojas, sus ojos verdes ardían.
Era difícil para Edwin mirarla, se veía tan hermosa en ese momento.
Había tratado de razonar con ella. —Piensa en tus hijos —Vale y Tessla los dejaban con él por períodos más largos de tiempo mientras combatían este mal imposible de derrotar— ¿Qué harán Rafe, Trystan y Elloren si algo te sucede?
—¡No puedo sentarme y hacer nada sobre este horror!
—¡No puedes ganar, Tess!
Vale y ella estaban tentando al destino, Edwin lo sabía. Tentando el horrible poder de su madre y el ejército Gardneriano al trabajar para la resistencia. Ambos Vale y Tessla estaban involucrados en el contrabando de niños y familias Fae a través de Paso Este de la Espina, ambos ligados a Beck Keeler, Fain Quillen y Jules Kristian. Y otros.
El siempre-existente nudo de horror se apretó dentro de Edwin.
Temía que solo fuera cuestión de tiempo para que Vale y Tessla fueran capturados y ejecutados, para después ser presentados como héroes de su guerra. Las actividades de la Resistencia limpiamente encubiertas. Para salvar la reputación de la Bruja Negra. 
Y ahora está sentado aquí, el duelo ardiendo en su pecho, porque eso fue exactamente lo que pasó. Vale y Tessla fueron aprehendidos hace tres días mientras intentaban salvar a un grupo de niños Asrai Fae que iban a ser enviados a las Islas Pyrran. Ambos habían sido arrastrados a la base militar más cercana y ejecutados por orden de su madre, la verdad acerca de sus actividades con la Resistencia escondidas para todos, salvo unos pocos.
Y justo esta mañana, como un ciclón cataclísmico, llegaron las noticias que enviarán ondas de impacto a través de los Reinos del Este y Oeste.
Su madre, la Bruja Negra, está muerta.
Asesinada por un Ícaro que murió mientras la mataba con un rayo de fuego de dragón. Un final acorde al reinado de fuego que amenazó con esclavizar por completo los Reinos del Este y Oeste. Que destruyó ligas de bosque y convirtió las hermosas planicies del Este y las tierras Uriscal del sur en un desierto carbonizado.
Un horrible presentimiento se enroscó en el pecho de Edwin.
Los Gardenerianos estarán determinados a vengarse. Y ya no son débiles. Gardneria es ahora diez veces más grande de lo que solía ser y el poder más grande en la región por un largo tiempo, su única competencia son los Elfos Alfsigr, sus incómodos aliados.
Y van a buscar su próximo Gran Mago. 
Edwin mira a los niños con creciente alarma.
Su sobrino, Rafe Gardner, se sienta en la alfombra con patrones de hojas mientras observa fijamente a su tío y tía. Con solo cinco años, el pequeño Rafe tiene la calma de un niño mucho mayor, se ha convertido rápidamente en el guardián de sus hermanos. Llora en silencio, abrazando protectoramente al pequeño Trystan.
Trystan se ha enroscado en una bola de miseria mientras llora y se queja —Papá. Mamá. Papá. Mamá —repite una y otra vez.
El corazón de Edwin se aprieta con preocupación. Trystan es un niño frágil, propenso a las lágrimas y el miedo, los ojos del delgado niño de dos años están aterrorizados y perdidos.
Y está Elloren, de tres años.
Está acurrucada junto a sus hermanos, abrazando fuertemente el cobertor que Tessla le cosió. La manta fue creada con amor para Elloren mientras aún estaba en el vientre de Tessla, un árbol con muchas ramas y brillantes hojas verdes está bordado en la tela, junto con pequeñas aves y animales. Elloren se queja suavemente escondida en ella.
Conmovido, Edwin se arrodilla junto a Elloren y la abraza. Ella estira sus pequeños brazos para aferrarse a él y a la manta, su cuerpo se sacude con sollozos.
Edwin mira a Vyvian, y la expresión en la cara de su hermana le da escalofríos.
Ella mira a los niños como si fueran una despreciable repercusión, su odio por Vale y Tessla es completamente evidente y se transfiere a los niños inocentes. Edwin abraza a Elloren más fuerte mientras observa la expresión cruel y despiadada en el rostro de Vyvian y se da cuenta de lo que tiene que hacer.
Los niños lo necesitan y él los ama.
—Los niños se quedarán conmigo —le dice a Vyvian, su voz rasposa pero decidida y se sorprende a sí mismo con lo inquebrantable que es mientras enfrenta a su intimidante hermana.
El ceño fruncido de Vyvian se profundiza, empuña las manos convulsivamente, su mirada asesina se centra en Edwin. Su desconcierto es poco característico, y Edwin sabe que es por todas las razones equivocadas. 
—De acuerdo —dice, y su boca se aprieta mientras le lanza una última mirada cargada de resentimiento a los niños como si quisiera deshacerse de este terrible momento y de ellos también. Se mueve para irse pero se detiene junto a la puerta y voltea despacio, su mirada se fija de nuevo en los niños de una manera que envía un escalofrío más fuerte por la columna de Edwin, el odio en su mirada se transforma en evaluación.
Mira a Edwin de nuevo, su expresión afilada y dura como una aguja.—Necesitarás hacerles exámenes de varita —insiste— y pronto. Si tienen poder me dejarás saber inmediatamente. Madre habría insistido —. Su voz se rompe y lágrimas brillan en sus ojos. Parpadea firmemente manteniendo las lágrimas a raya. —El legado de nuestra familia no morirá con nuestra Madre —señala a los niños con un elegante movimiento de su mano—. Sus padres eran traidores, pero tal vez los niños puedan convertirse en campeones de nuestra gente si son criados de la forma correcta.
Edwin solo parpadea, y en este momento odia su hermana.
«¿Sus padres?. No, Vyvian.» Quiere gritarle. «¡Nuestro hermano y su esposa!»
Pero Edwin sabe que Vyvian tiene sus persianas firmemente puestas. No hay espacio para los matices en su perspectiva. Para Vyvian, el mundo está dividido en limpias mitades: están los Malvados y los Gardnerianos.
Y tienes que escoger un lado o el otro.
Edwin sabe lo que tiene que hacer. No lo que Vyvian quiere. Pero tampoco lo que Vale y Tessla hubieran querido.
«Perdóname, Vale. Perdóname, Tessla.»
Abraza a Elloren más fuerte mientras lo baña una feroz ola de amor protector.
Si alguno de los niños ha heredado el poder de su madre, él lo va a esconder de los Gardnerianos. Protegerá a los niños de todo esto.
Ellos no podrán tenerlos.
Ni los Gardnerianos. Ni la Resistencia.
Este legado de magia malvada terminará aquí.
Varios meses más tarde, Edwin decide hacer exámenes de varita a Rafe, Trystan y Elloren.
Los evalúa en ocasiones separadas, viajando lejos fuera de Valgard cada vez y llevando a cada niño a lo profundo del bosque donde nadie podrá atestiguar la magia liberada.
Edwin reza para que esa magia no exista.
Y hasta ahora, sus plegarias incómodas han sido más o menos respondidas.
A Edwin le preocupaba que Rafe hubiera heredado las habilidades poderosas de su madre. Es un niño amable pero su presencia es sorprendentemente poderosa. Agraciado físicamente y seguro de sí mismo, Rafe está lleno de una confianza de acero que no es usualmente vista en un niño de tan tierna edad. Pero básicamente no tiene ningún poder mágico, sólo una delgada hebra de magia de la tierra.
Está claro que Trystan va ha ser un poderoso Mago, el precoz niño de dos años ya puede recitar hechizos y tiene acceso a magia de agua. Pero no es un Gran Mago. No tiene nada del poder loco y abrumador de su abuela, su nivel de magia de agua es cinco, pero no superior. También es sensible, callado, y no es propenso a la violencia.
Y está Elloren.
Edwin envía una plegaria mientras camina dentro del bosque con la gentil Elloren, su pequeña mano agarrada con confianza a la de él.
«Gran Ancestro, por favor que esta niña esté libre de poder.»
Ella está tan relajada, dando saltitos a su lado. Tán cómoda en el bosque. Como todos los Gardnerianos sin poder. 
Pero lo atraída que está hacia la madera ha perturbado a Edwin por un tiempo. Recoge pequeñas piezas, las colecciones metidas en sus cajones, en sus bolsillos, escondidas bajo la cama.
Edwin mira hacia Elloren con una sonrisa forzada que es correspondida mil veces más intensa.
Tiene las facciones severas de Vale, piensa. Tan agudas y angulares para una niña tan amable y alegre. Pero entonces sus pensamientos cambian.
«Tiene exactamente las mismas facciones que su abuela.»
Edwin empuja el aterrador pensamiento fuera de su mente. Vale lucía igual que su poderosa madre, y era poderoso, pero no era ningún Gran Mago. Y Elloren está atraída hacia la madera, pero Edwin tampoco puede dejar de tocarla, pasa horas cada día tallando y creando violines. Y es tan solo un Mago Nivel Uno.
«No, Elloren no tendrá poder.» Se asegura a sí mismo. «Como yo.»
Edwin se detiene en un pequeño claro, los rayos del sol lo iluminan, las aves cantan. La pequeña Elloren se ríe y da vueltas, le sonríe al sol. Se detiene, tambaleándose un poco de tanto girar y le sonríe a su tío.
—Aquí tienes, Elloren —dice Edwin ansioso mientras desliza su mano dentro del bolsillo de su túnica—. Tengo algo para ti —. Saca la varita y se la entrega a su sobrina. 
—¿Para qué es? —pregunta, tomando la varita en sus pequeñas manos con una mirada de curiosidad.
—Es un juego —dice Edwin con ligereza mientras pone una vela en un tronco antes de regresar a su lado y señalar la vara con un dedo. —Y eso es un palo mágico, pero tengo que mostrarte cómo usarlo —se agacha en una rodilla y guía su mano dominante en la posición correcta alrededor del mango de la varita, sus manos tiemblan mientras rodean la pequeña mano con aprehensión. —Sostén el palo así, Elloren.
Elloren lo mira con obvia preocupación, claramente notando como tiembla, pero Edwin forza otra sonrisa y ella le sonríe de vuelta, luciendo motivada mientras envuelve sus dedos en la posición correcta. 
—Así está bien, Elloren —dice Edwin mientras suelta su mano y se levanta. —Ahora voy a pedirte que digas unas palabras graciosas. ¿Puedes hacer eso?
La sonrisa de Elloren se torna brillante y asiente.
El estómago de Edwin se aprieta. Es una niña tan obediente. Tan fácil de complacer.
«Tan fácil de blandir.»
Edwin enuncia las palabras para el hechizo de encender la vela varias veces, palabras en la Antigua Lengua; palabras extrañas con sutiles inflexiones, nada fáciles de pronunciar.
—¿Crees poder pronunciar eso? —le pregunta a su sobrina.
Elloren asiente mientras apunta la varita correctamente con un enfoque determinado y Edwin repite las palabras unas veces más para que ella pueda recordarlas.
—Entonces adelante —la motiva gentilmente mientras su garganta se constriñe con aprehensión, su corazón martillando con miedo afilado y esperanza sofocada.
Elloren dice el hechizo, claro y correcto, su brazo tiembla ligeramente, su cuerpo firme.
Y entonces echa la cabeza hacia atrás.
Un violento río de fuego erupciona desde la punta de la varita y explota más allá del tronco, explotando a través de un gran árbol y varios más detrás de ese. Edwin se tropieza dando un paso hacia atrás y Elloren grita mientras el bosque explota como un rugiente monstruo de fuego.
Edwin saca la varita de la mano de Elloren arrojándola hacia un lado, carga a la niña y corre, apresurándose mientras el bosque se cae a pedazos alrededor de ellos.
Edwin pasa el próximo año tratando de que Elloren olvide.
Cuando Elloren se despierta gritando de pesadillas ardientes, le insiste que lo que recuerda es una tormenta. Una feroz y rara tormenta, un infierno causado por un violento rayo.
Insiste en ello una y otra y otra vez.
Y con el tiempo, ella le cree. Su verdadero recuerdo es enterrado y se desvanece.
Pero el bosque recuerda.
Los árboles envían la advertencia en su forma progresiva, despacio como la savia viaja a través de raíces enredadas, un árbol después del otro. Y gradualmente, inexorablemente, el mensaje es llevado a el Bosque del Norte y a sus Driadas Guardianas.
Hasta III.

La Bruja Negra regresó. 

Quince años después...
©Laurie Forest, 2020
Traducido por Selene Kallan

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Exclusive Preview: The Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest.

Read an exclusive excerpt of the Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest here!

The Gardnerian Prophecy
(Divined from Ironwood cleromancy by Priest Seers of the First Children)

A Great Winged One will soon arise and 
cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. 
And just as Night slays Day
and Day slays Night, 
so also shall another Black Witch 
rise to meet him, 
her powers vast beyond imagining.
 And as their powers clash upon the field of 
battle, the heavens shall open, the mountains 
tremble and the waters run crimson.
And their fates shall determine 
the future of all Erthia.

The Noi Prophecy
(Scried from Black Ginkgo tasseography by the Blessed Servants of Vo)

A wyvern child shall be brought forth
 by the Great Goddess Vo, 
and he shall be filled with the 
dragon goddess’s own fire and 
power and righteousness.
But wreathed in Shadow, 
another Black Witch shall also rise.
To weave horror and corruption 
throughout Erthia.
 The two shall meet on the field of battle 
as all color is bled from the world.
And consumed by the Shadow.

The Amaz Prophecy
(Foretold from Sacred Red Elm Astragalomancy by the Seers of the Goddess)

Daughters of the Goddess take heed!
A great Shadow Force rises 
from the Cursed World of Men.
And amidst its darkness, a Wyvern Male 
and a Black Witch shall arise and clash,
raining destruction upon the world.

Take up arms, Blessed Daughters!
The hour to save Erthia is at hand!


Fifteen years ago…

Edwin Gardner sits on the silk-cushioned chair in a haze of grief. 
He watches his distraught sister, Vyvian, pace across her ornate parlor, wishing he could wash his hands of his family’s cursed legacy of magic.
And wishing that the news Vyvian just imparted wasn’t so completely horrific. 
Incredibly, in the midst of this world-altering day, Vyvian is dressed as impeccably as ever. Her long, gleaming black hair is artfully plaited, not a strand out of place. Her formfitting, midnight-silk tunic and long-skirt are perfectly pressed and patterned with lush pine boughs. And there’s luxury everywhere in this cursedly opulent room - dark, polished Ironwood trees set into the walls, their obsidian branches tangling overhead. An oak-leaf patterned rug beneath his feet. Panoramic windows edged in luminous stained-glass vines that overlook Vyvian’s expansive garden of bloodred roses.
The finest of everything, Edwin considers with bitter anguish. All this wealth secured by his mother’s cruel reign of fire. Edwin sends up a prayer that future generations will not inherit this terrible, corrupting magic. 
 Vyvian continues to pace, not even bothering to look at the three children huddled miserably in the corner as Edwin’s grief threatens to tear him apart.
 His brother Vale and Vale’s fastmate, Tessla, are dead.
Edwin’s throat is tight, his breathing irregular and stifled over the loss of two of the people he loves most in all the world. He wants to rip at his hair and cry out in misery to the heavens. To shake his fist at his powerful sister, at the entire monster that is Gardneria. But he can’t fall apart. He has three children who need his protection. Vale and Tessla’s children.
Rafe, Trystan, and Elloren.
 “You can’t fight the Gardnerians,” he’d warned Tessla just a few months ago, overcome with worry as he faced her in her Valgard home. “You don’t know what cruelty my mother is capable of. Her power has turned shadowed, Tess. It's consuming her.”
 “I have to fight,” Tessla passionately countered, her voice rough with defiance. “They’re rounding up all the Fae, Edwin! The children too. We have to help them!"
 “You can’t.”
 “We have to. Don't you see? The Gardnerians are doing the same thing that the Kelts and the Urisk did to us! Children are being herded up. Whole families. Do you know what that’s like? Watching your family, your people, herded together to be killed? The children screaming?” Tessla’s cheeks were flushed, her green eyes blazing. 
 She was so beautiful in that moment, it was hard for Edwin to look at her.
 He’d tried to reason with her. "Think of your children.” They were being left with him for longer and longer stretches as Vale and Tessla fought this unbeatable evil. “What will Rafe and Trystan and Elloren do if something happens to you?”
 Tessla shook her head. "I can’t sit by and do nothing about this horror."
 "You can’t win, Tess!" 
 She and Vale were tempting fate, Edwin knew. Tempting the awful power of his mother and the Gardnerian military by secretly working for the Resistance. Both Vale and Tessla involved in smuggling Fae children and families through the Spine’s Eastern Pass, the two of them in league with Beck Keeler and Fain Quillen and Jules Kristian. And others.
 The ever-present knot of dread tightened inside Edwin. 
He feared it would be only a matter of time before Vale and Tessla were caught and executed, then made to look like war heroes. Their Resistance activities neatly covered up.
To save the reputation of the Black Witch.
 And now, he’s sitting here, grief burning in his chest, because that’s exactly what's happened - Vale and Tessla were apprehended three days ago as they attempted to save a group of Asrai Fae children from shipment to the Pyrran Islands. Both of them had been dragged to the nearest military base and executed at his mother’s command, the truth of their Resistance activities hidden from all but a select few.
And this morning, trailing in behind this news like a cataclysmic cyclone, is news that’s sending shockwaves through both the Western and Eastern Realms. 
 His mother, the Black Witch, is dead.
 Slain by an Icaral who died as he killed her with a bolt of wyvern flame - a fitting end to a reign of fire that threatened to enslave the entire Western and Eastern Realms. That had destroyed leagues of forest and turned the lush plains of the East and the southern Uriskal lands to scorched desert. 
 Foreboding curls under Edwin’s ribs, constricting his chest.
The Gardnerians will be set on vengeance. And they’re not weak anymore. Because of his mother, Gardneria is now ten times its original size and the major power in the region for a long time to come, rivaled only by their uneasy allies, the Alfsigr Elves.
And they’ll be looking for their next Great Mage. 
Alarm rises inside Edwin as he looks to the children.
 His nephew, Rafe Gardner, sits on the leaf-patterned carpet, steadily watching his uncle and aunt. At five, little Rafe has the stoicism of a much older child, quickly appointing himself the protector of his younger siblings. He cries silently, his arms draped protectively around tiny Trystan. 
 Trystan has curled himself into a tight ball of misery as he keens and whimpers, “Poppa. Momma. Poppa. Momma,” over and over.
 Edwin’s heart wrenches with worry. Trystan's a fragile child, prone to tears and fear, the skinny, two-year-old's eyes dazed and frightened.
 And then, there’s three-year-old Elloren. 
 She's balled up next to her brothers, hugging the quilt Tessla sewed for her - the blanket lovingly crafted for Elloren when she was still in Tessla's womb, a branchy tree with bright green leaves stitched onto the fabric, with little embroidered birds and animals darting all around. Elloren is whimpering softly into its folds. 
 Overcome, Edwin goes to Elloren, kneels and embraces her. She reaches out small arms to cling to both him and her quilt, her body wracked with sobs.
 Edwin glances at Vyvian and his sister’s expression sends an icy chill straight through him.
 She’s glaring at the children like they’re hideous blowback, her hatred for Vale and Tessla on full display and spilling over onto these innocents. Edwin’s hold on Elloren tightens as he takes in Vyvian’s cruel, unforgiving expression and he realizes what he must do.
The children need him and he loves them.
 “The children will stay with me,” he tells Vyvian, his voice hoarse but staunch and he surprises himself with how unwavering he is in the face of his intimidating sister.
 Vyvian’s frown deepens, her fists clenching and unclenching, her glare sharpening on Edwin. She seems uncharacteristically rattled, and Edwin knows it’s for all the wrong reasons.
“Very well,” she says, and her mouth thins as she flashes one last resentful look towards the children, as if wanting to rid herself of this terrible business and dispose of them. She moves to leave, but pauses at the door and slowly turns, her gaze fixing back on the children in a way that sends a harder chill down Edwin’s spine, her hateful glare morphing to one of appraisal.
She meets Edwin’s gaze once more, her expression and tone hardening to a needled point. “You’ll need to wand test them,” she insists. “And soon. If they have power, you’re to immediately let me know. Mother would have insisted on it.” Her voice breaks and tears glisten in her eyes. She blinks the tears back firmly. “Our family legacy might not die with Mother.” She gestures towards the children with a flick of her elegant hand. "Their parents were traitors, but perhaps, if raised correctly, the children can grow up to be champions of our people.”
 Edwin blinks at his sister and in this moment, he hates her. 
 Their parents.
 No, Vyvian, he wants to rail against her. Our brother and his fastmate!
 But Edwin knows that Vyvian has her blinders firmly in place. There is absolutely no nuance in her perspective. To Vyvian, the world is divided into clean halves - there are Evil Ones and there are Gardnerians. And you have to pick one side or the other.
 Edwin knows what he will do. Not what Vyvian wants. But not what Vale and Tessla would have wanted either.
 Forgive me, Vale. Forgive me, Tessla
 He hugs Elloren close as a fierce wave of protective love washes over him. 
 If any of the children has inherited his mother’s power, he will hide it from the Gardnerians. He will protect the children from all of this. 
 They can’t have them. 
Not the Gardnerians. Not the Resistance.
 This legacy of evil magic will end here.
Several months later, Edwin decides to wandtest Rafe, Trystan and Elloren.
He tests them on separate occasions, traveling far outside of Valgard each time and taking each child deep into the woods where no one will be able to witness any magic uncovered. 
Magic that Edwin prays is not there.
And so far, his uneasy prayers have been mostly answered. 
Edwin had been worried that Rafe might have inherited his mother’s powerful abilities. He’s a kind boy, but with a surprisingly powerful presence. Physically graceful and sure of himself, Rafe is filled with a steely confidence not often seen in a child of such a tender age. But he’s as good as magically powerless, with only a thin sliver of earth magic.
It’s clear that Trystan’s to be a powerful Mage, the precocious two-year-old already able to sound out spells and access water magic. But he’s no Great Mage. He has none of the crazy, overwhelming power of his grandmother, his water magery testing at Level Five but not beyond. Also, he’s a sensitive, quiet child, disinclined to violence. 
And then there’s Elloren.
As Edwin walks into the woods with gentle Elloren, her small hand clasped trustingly in his, he sends up a prayer. 
Ancient One, please let this child be free of power. 
She’s so untroubled, skipping alongside him. So at ease in the woods. Like all powerless Gardnerians.
But it’s disturbed Edwin for some time now, how drawn Elloren is to wood - gathering small pieces of it, her collections stuffed into drawers, filling her pockets, hidden under her bed. 
Edwin glances down at Elloren and forces a smile that’s returned a thousandfold.
She’s got Vale’s stark features, he muses. So angular and sharp for such a kind, sunny child. But then his thoughts shift.
She’s got her grandmother’s exact features.
Edwin pushes the frightening thought from his mind. Vale, himself, looked just like their powerful mother, and he was powerful, but he was no Great Mage. And Elloren might be drawn to wood, but Edwin himself can barely keep his hands off of it, spending hours each day carving and creating violins. And he’s only a Level One Mage. 
No, Elloren will be powerless, he reassures himself. Just like I am.
 Edwin stops in a small clearing, rays of sun streaking down, birds twittering. Little Elloren giggles and spins around like a whirring maple seed, her smile to the sun. She stops, teetering from the spinning, and grins at her uncle.
 “Here, Elloren,” Edwin says as he slides his hand into his cloak’s pocket, anxiety mounting inside him. “I have something for you.” He draws out the wand and hands it to his niece.
“What’s that for?” she asks, taking the wand into her small hands with a look of curiosity.
 “It’s a game,” Edwin says lightly as he sets a candle on a nearby stump before returning to her, his finger flicking towards the wand. “And that’s a magic stick, but I’ll have to show you how to use it.” He gets down on one knee and guides her wand hand into the proper position around the wand’s hilt, his hands trembling around her small one with apprehension. “Hold the stick like this, Elloren.”
Elloren looks up at him with obvious concern, clearly noting his trembling, but Edwin forces another smile and she smiles back, looking heartened, as her fingers slide into position.
 “That’s it, Elloren,” Edwin says as he releases his hands from hers and rises. “Now I’m going to ask you to say some funny words. Can you do that?”
 Elloren’s smile brightens and she bobs her head up and down. 
Edwin’s gut tenses. She’s such a compliant child. So eager to please.
 So easy to wield.
 Edwin sounds out the words to the candle lighting spell several times, words in the Ancient Tongue - foreign words, with subtle inflections, not easily made. 
 “Do you think you can remember that?” he asks his niece.
 Elloren nods as she points the wand out straight and true with determined focus and Edwin repeats the words a few more times so she can remember.
“Go ahead, then,” he gently prods as the apprehension tightens his throat, his heart hammering with both breathless hope and jagged fear. 
 Elloren sounds out the spell, clear and correct, her arm taking on a slight tremor, her body stiffening.
And then her head jerks backwards.
 A violent stream of fire bursts from the wand’s tip and explodes past the stump, blasting clear through a large tree and several more behind it. Edwin stumbles backward and Elloren screams as the woods explode into a crackling, roaring monster of flame 
 Edwin wrests the wand from Elloren’s hand, thrusts it aside, grabs her up and runs, racing through the woods as the forest falls apart behind them. 
Edwin spends the next year trying to get Elloren to forget. 
He insists, when Elloren wakes screaming from fiery nightmares, that what she remembers was a storm. A fierce, freakish storm – an inferno caused by unusually violent lightning. 
He insists on it again and again and again.
And in time, she believes. And her true memory is buried and grows faded.
But the forest remembers.
The trees send out word in their creeping way, slow as sap traveling through tangled roots, one tree after another after another. And gradually, relentlessly the message is carried towards the Northern Forest. Towards its Dryad Guardians. 
Towards III.

The Black Witch is back. 

Fifteen years later…


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